Slow starts doom Gators

Florida could never create any momentum in Athens on Saturday afternoon, getting off to slow starts in both halves to eliminate any chance of staying perfect in Southeastern Conference play while falling 73-61 against Georgia.

The loss ended Florida’s streak of 24 straight wins over SEC opponents and 21 straight wins over SEC opponents during the regular season.

The Bulldogs (11-5, 2-2 SEC) didn’t miss a shot until the 12:40 mark of the first half, opening 7-7 from the field as a team. After back-to-back misses and offensive rebounds, Georgia got a tip in to push its lead to 21-6 with 12:31 left in the first half.

After Kenny Gaines hit a 3-pointer to push the Georgia lead to 11-0, Florida coach Billy Donovan was forced to call a timeout less than four minutes into the game.

As hot as Georgia started from the field, the Gators were the exact opposite. Florida (10-7, 3-1 SEC) started the game 0-6 from the field and finally got on the board when Jacob Kurtz made a layup after the Bulldogs already had 12 points.

After falling behind 21-6, the Gators closed the final 12:31 of the first half on a 25-15 run. Florida looked like it held momentum going into the half while trailing by just five points, but instead of capitalizing on that early in the second half, Georgia stretched the lead back out.

The lead was back to double digits with 13:44 left in the game, and it would only go back to single digits for nine seconds over the rest of the game.

“I thought we were actually in pretty good shape coming into the half down by five, starting the second half with the ball,” Donovan said on the postgame radio show. “Devin Robinson hits a three, and then from there, five straight turnovers. It’s hard to win when you do that.”

The teams shot similar percentages on field goals and free throws, but the biggest difference was the three-point line. Georgia came out of the gates blistering hot, but after slowing down late in the first half, the Bulldogs turned it back on and end the game shooting 53.3 percent (8-15) while Florida went 31.3 percent (5-16) from long range.

Michael Frazier did hit a three-pointer for the 39th straight game, tying Lee Humphrey for the longest streak in school history.

When the Gators tried to make a run, it was turnovers that did them in. Florida turned the ball over a season-high 19 times despite Georgia not applying much pressure on the ball. It was self-inflicted errors that impacted what the Gators could get going.

“We go against a team in Auburn on Thursday who prides themselves on turning people over,” Donovan said. “We had a real good focus and had nine (turnovers) for the game. We came back here and have 19. Just totally uncalled for. Georgia’s not a pressure team. They’re a pack-it-in team. We never ran our offense or executed. We didn’t even give ourselves a chance to win.”

Florida returns to action on Tuesday against LSU in the O’Connell Center at 7 p.m.

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